On Inhabiting India
i was going to start this entry with a definition of "monsoon", but the words "heavy rainfall" seemed like quite an underexaggeration after my weekend trip to a rajmaji, a village in the maharashtran mountains. perhaps this entire entry will be an understatement of my adventurous hike. or maybe i'm just trying too hard to be exciting. after a rickety train ride at 6 in the morning, we arrive with...rain...big surprise. i was already contemplating building a shrine for the ziploc bags that incased most of my belongings. we trudged through a small town, only stopping for chaha and we headed to the mountain path. after being in smoggy pune for so long, the vast, pure, green of it all was ecstasy. although breathing involved inhaling water a good amount of the time, the fresh air was heaven. after ten minutes of walking, my hands were already pruning as if i had been soaking in a bath. my backpack and all of my clothing was already drenched despite the poncho i had covering it all (i would have looked like a hunchback if my poncho was opaque). as we climbed, we passed many natives that were traveling with ease. they were all singing, the children the loudest, as we reached the quarterway point which consisted of a chaha stand in the middle of a place that almost looked like ireland for a moment. we also met 3 indian male college students that followed our group, serenading us with hindi pop songs as we continued. it was the epitome of boy band. we eventually arrived at a larger stream, or small river with water that looked like glass over beautiful gray stones. we set down our gear and took the plunge. there was surprisingly little difference between wading in the water and being in the almost waterfall-like rains (the rains stopped at that brief moment). i must admit that i am not the most spiritual person in the world by any means, but being in that river was one of the most moving experiences in my entire life. i think it was one of those things where you had to be there. after hours and hours and hours of walking, we arrived at the village. we stayed in a farm house, which i thought was just a big room to sit for a little while, but i then found out later that the cow dung floor was what we'd be sleeping on and it was exquivalent to cement or stone...aka...it was no feather bed. i found out that it is very rare that a villager would ever leave the village in their lifetime as they have everything they need. can you imagine? the host family treated us with so much kindness and hospitality. there is an old indian saying (i can't remember it in hindi) that says, "guest is god". that is how they believe guests should be treated. they gave us the most delicious chaha when we arrived and lit some dried dung to keep us warm (i guess it has many uses). after eating and sitting and massaging. we had dinner, which included bhat (rice...freshly picked from their crops...the best i've ever had), bhaji (veggies), and phakri (chapati-like rice things). it was simple, but wonderful. we were almost ready to sleep when anjali--our guide and little woman that won't take any crap and breaking/spraining her ankle would never stop her from hiking--told us there was bioluminescent fungi just outside the village. it was like the glow in the dark paint one would see stars painted with on ceilings (like mine). it wasn't as visible as we had hoped, but still interesting to perceive. i'm sure you could all guess what it was like to sleep on the cow dung floor, so i won't go on and on, and i didn't complain as that's where the villagers sleep every night. the next day i was started to feel pain from walking for such a long time the day before over rocky/wet/muddy ground. the rains still hadn't stopped. we were going to leave in the morning, but it was raining so hard. the host father said he had never see a worse rainy time than when we were there. and he has experienced monsoon season in the prime place all his life. by early afternoon, it was time to try. we went a quarter of the way and we found out that other hikers were heading back to the village because the river was too too high to cross. anjali told us to go back (which meant 2 hours of walking) and she would assess the situation. but we decided to go with her anyway and we found that people put up ropes and men were all standing in a line helping people cross. they just kept yelling at me to look at the other side of the river and not down the waterfall as i crossed. it helped, but. man. we all cheered and headed on our way. the rest of the way back we were mostly walking in about 6 inches of water. atleast 4 times i stepped in the wrong place and my foot would sink down atleast 8 inches of mud (other people didn't seem to have my bad luck). the gigantic amount of rain, meant waterfalls down the mountain cliffs. the scene was breathtaking most of the time. one of the indian guys that came with us said, "i've been counting waterfalls since we left the village and so far there has been 26 big ones and 51 small ones). and we were only halfway to put it in perspective. so more paoosa (rain). khoop paoousa (lots of rain). then we made it to the small town. waited for the train, drenched for a change. when the train got there (after being delayed for what seemed like a year) the fight that happened was unexpected. punching, elbowing, yelling all happened in the huge mass trying to get on the train just to be able to get a seat. it all happened in a flash. i am proud to say that i managed to be bold and feisty enough to obtain my own seat. and no one wanted to sit next to us because we were practically raining ourselves. so. an amazing/terrible/painful/beautiful time. whatever it was, it was well worth it. i think i'm forgetting a lot that i wanted to put in here, but i've been sitting here for way too long. the end. oh...and i cut my hair. PS pictures coming as soon as I get another power cord for my laptop as it got blown out by the unstable India electrical current.